A recent discovery shows a new species of bacteria whose diet is based on ethane from the deep-sea hot vents in the Guayama Basin. The researchers from the Institute for Marine Microbiology have managed to cultivate this type of bacterium in a controlled laboratory environment.
The scientists from Max Planck declared that this microbe is remarkable since its breaking technique of the ethane is reversible. This could prove an impressive discovery that would help researchers determine how to produce energy from ethane.
The ethane is the second most present component in the natural gas. The microorganism can feed themselves with a wide range of organic compounds, including gasoline.
The unusual bacteria were discovered at the bottom of the Guaymas Basin, at a depth of 2000 meters below the sea. This area has been well known by the scientists for its robust ecosystem, where they have discovered a series of unique microorganisms.
Bacteria that eat ethane were found in Guayama Basin
A series of gas components, for example, butane and propane, can be broken down only by using bacteria. However, the degradation process can be achieved while utilizing two different organisms that form a consortium.
One of them is Archea, responsible for breaking down the natural gas. The other one is bacteria, whose role is to couple the electrons and make them sulfate. The biochemical processes of this experiment were almost impossible to study since the organisms need a long period to grow, and there was a small quantity of biomass available to explore.
Fortunately, everything changed with the discovery of the ethane producers, which are capable of growing a lot faster than usual. Their cells double in size and number every week, allowing researchers to have enough biomass for more tests.
The newly discovered bacteria is named Ethanoperedens thermophilum, and its name can be translated as “heat-loving ethane-eater.” Scientists are impressed by this discovery since it is for the first time in the history that they manage to understand the functioning of these types of bacteria.